If your sport season is coming to a close, it can be tempting to attack the weight room with new enthusiasm. As the volume of practices and games dwindles, many athletes feel the need to start lifting heavy right right away, to counteract the slowing momentum of the competitive season. But while you may be itching to hit the ground sprinting, it’s important to take some time for rest and recovery before you begin your post-season championship run or look toward next season. Here are three quick tips to help you maximize your rest and recovery before you start training again in earnest.
Reduce Training Volume
After a season of hard physical effort, your body needs a break. There will be plenty of time to train for your next season, and the best way to start preparing now is to give your body enough time to fully recover, so that you can hit the weights hard when it counts. Take a few weeks off from high-intensity activity. You can still strength train during this period, as long as you keep the volume very low. Weights, reps, and sets should all be lower and easier than normal. Focus on range of motion in the weight room, not on maxing out on your lifts (this is especially important for athletes preparing for a playoff run). Save the heavy stuff for when your focus is on developing strength during the off-season.
While it’s good to take a break from your sport for a couple weeks after the season ends, you don’t need to stop ALL activity. It may seem like a good idea to park yourself on the couch for eight hours to “rest” (play Xbox), but that may actually do you more harm than good.
@@Staying active during recovery keeps muscles loose and primed for performance.@@ Stretching, foam-rolling, and low-intensity cross-training—like riding a stationary bike, going for a brisk walk or easy hike, etc.—are great options for active rest. It also will give your mind a much-needed mental break for the competition or training ahead.
Eat, Sleep, and Hydrate
Arguably the best thing you can do for your body during this rest period is to get ample food, sleep, and water intake. Think of these weeks as your training foundation—what you do now sets the scene for success in the upcoming weeks of training and competition, and that foundation needs to be rock-solid.
Aim to get at least 100 ounces of water each day and eight hours of quality sleep per night. During the day, eat enough calories from high-quality foods to support your activity and maintain your weight. Just don’t overdo it!
At the end of a season, it can be tempting to jump right back into training and get ready for next year. That’s just who we are as athletes: intensely dedicated to reaching a higher level of performance. But all of us—athletes of all sports—will benefit from first taking some downtime to let our bodies rest and recover from the physicality of the season. By focusing on reduced training volume, active rest, and nutritional maintenance, athletes can restore themselves to proper pre-training condition so they can start training hard again when it counts.
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